New moves to delay agreement on Petworth memorial are opposed

The memorial stone at the front of the former boys school site
The memorial stone at the front of the former boys school site

A new move by the Petworth Boys School developer to delay agreeing a memorial to the 29 boys killed when a German bomb exploded at the school in 1942, has caused more anger.

But owner of Towerview Developments, Joe Gormley refutes claims he is trying to ‘wriggle out’ of an obligation to honour those who died.

There was outrage when Towerview tried to get a planning condition removed which required provision of a piece of public art as a permanent commemoration alongside the existing memorial stone and the application was withdrawn.

But now the developer has submitted another to change the wording so the artwork can be agreed before the new homes are occupied rather than before building starts.

Petworth Town Council chairman Chris Kemp accused the developers of trying to ‘wriggle out’ of their obligation six weeks ago because he said ‘ they were trying to argue moving the memorial stone and planting a new flowers constitutes a piece of public art’.

And now town councillors have lodged objections to the latest bid to delay agreement on the new memorial.

“Looking at the planning history, he has persistently gone back to the national park trying to have various conditions removed and he is still doing it,” said Mr Kemp. “This is a very sensitive site and we insisting we get a permanent memorial.

“I have had a conversation with Mr Gormley and we discussed two things, the new entrance to the Horsham Road cemetery and the memorial stone. He explained he was going to move the stone. He also talked about a little garden. I explained he was not doing us a service by moving the stone at his expense because he had to do it to provide the visibility splay required by West Sussex County Council for his new access.

“But there was no mention of a piece of public art in line with the planning condition and this talk of a mosaic has only come to us third hand.

“When I emailed him to ask how much money he had placed in his budget for a piece of art, I got no answer. We want a sensible conversation with him to hear how much he is prepared to provide and how he is going to conform to his planning condition.”

Developer is saddened by ‘untruths’

The Boys School developer says he is ‘saddened’ by ’untruths’ over his offer of a memorial.

“Things have become completely misconstrued,” said Joe Gormley. “Not only did I proffer a mosaic, but I also offered directly to Chris Kemp to contribute financially to a reconsecrating of the stone memorial, which we were hoping to tie in with the 75th anniversary which I was obviously under no obligation to do.”

He said he wanted to change the condition to give Mr Kemp more time to decide on the right memorial: “I cannot afford to wait any longer, but I am totally committed to providing a piece of art. I am very much a family man and love my two children dearly, along with my wife Marie, they are my world. I cannot imagine, being a father myself, how absolutely tragic this event was for the families and friends of the children and teachers who lost their lives.”

“This is why we were so upset when we saw the article which basically says ‘greedy developer doesn’t care about these tragic deaths - just trying to save money’ and it could not be further from the truth.”

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1) Make our website your homepage at www.midhurstandpetworth.co.uk/

2) Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MidhurstandPetworthObserver

3) Follow us on Twitter @mid_pet_obs

4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!

The Midhurst and Petworth Observer - always the first with your local news.

Be part of it.